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Winners, losers from blockbuster Texans-Cardinals trade

Matt Johnson
DeAndre Hopkins, trade
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals shocked the NFL world on Monday, agreeing to a blockbuster deal that sent All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals for running back David Johnson and draft picks.

The Cardinals were exploring options to move on from Johnson’s contract this offseason. In exchange for sending a second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round selection to Houston, Arizona acquires one of the NFL’s best receivers

Coming off a disastrous showing as a coach in the AFC Divisional Playoff, the Texans named Bill O’Brien as their general manager. O’Brien reportedly shopped Hopkins around the league before finding a deal with the Cardinals, a move that eats into the Texans’ cap space and takes away Deshaun Watson’s go-to receiver.

Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from this shocking trade between the Cardinals and Texans.

Winner: Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals would have just been happy to get out of David Johnson’s contract, which carries a $14.1 million cap hit next season. The front office knew they would need to attach a draft pick to get out of the full deal and they accomplished it. Somehow, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim convinced Bill O’Brien to include Hopkins.

Hopkins, a first-team All-Pro selection in each of the past three seasons, only turns 28 in June. He recorded 95-plus receptions and 1,100-plus receiving yards over that span, too. Hopkins is a big-play threat with the ability to make highlight catches thanks to his absurd catch radius. Now with a No. 1 receiver in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, Arizona can use the No. 8 overall pick on a top offensive tackle. After that, this offense will be ready to dominate for years to come.

Loser: Bill O’Brien

O’Brien drew plenty of criticism last offseason for giving away star edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney for a third-round pick, then mortgaging the future to acquire Laremy Tunsil. The decision to trade Hopkins away for a second-round pick and a running back in decline on a bad contract might go down as one of the worst in NFL history.

There’s simply no getting around the magnitude of how bad this deal is for the Texans. Johnson doesn’t really improve their current standing at running back, given he lost his job to Kenyan Drake in Arizona, and the Texans still don’t have a first-round pick in the next two years. None of this will get O’Brien fired, he seems to just get more power after baffling decisions, but it strengthens his case as the worst coach in the NFL.

Winner: Kyler Murray

Murray displayed incredible potential in his rookie season, but he was clearly missing that No. 1 receiver. He campaigned for the Cardinals to draft CeeDee Lamb with the No. 8 overall pick. While he won’t get that wish, something tells us he’ll love this move even more.

Hopkins is the caliber of weapon that Murray has never experienced in his life, very few NFL quarterbacks have. Whether Murray throws a 50-yard dime right into Hopkins’ hands or he needs him to make a one-handed catch along the sideline, Hopkins will do it. This is the pivotal moment that will help Murray make a meteoric rise next season. He’ll likely get an offensive tackle to protect him on the right side now, too.

Loser: Deshaun Watson

It might be time for Watson to demand a trade. He’s already played behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines throughout his career. The physical hits have taken their toll, but he has at least had a top receiver to work with. Now, through O’Brien’s inexplicable decision-making, that is gone.

While David Johnson is a complementary piece in a passing game, his contributions account for a fraction of what Hopkins would have provided. Worse yet for Watson, he will have to continue suffering the consequences of O’Brien’s poor decisions as a head coach and general manager. It’s in Watson’s best interest to demand a trade, but it’s also unlikely to happen.